Deadly Drive

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by Khursheed Wani

A video grab showing young boy being crushed to death.

The reporters who have covered the Kashmir conflict for more than two decades know that the situation has slipped back to the heydays of militancy on many counts. The barrel of gun is doing much of talking and sanity taking a back seat. The human life is again highly expendable. Brutal and inhuman ways have been adopted to snuff out human lives.

There was a time between these two ruthless eras when not accounting a corpse from any corner of Kashmir made headlines. Ironically, the clock turned back and we witness uptick in brutal killings. In early 1990s, the chilling incidents of brutal murders often went unreported or got meager space in newspapers. Turning and twisting the cause of murder was not too difficult.

It is not easy to hide the brutal murders in the present era though laying hands on the perpetrators is as difficult as it was more than two decades back. The mobile phones in everyone’s hands have turned into recorders of some chilling incidents of savagery.

On May 5, one such incident took place in Srinagar’s Noorbagh when 18-year-old Adil Ahmed Yadoo was run over by a police armoured vehicle. Yadoo was hurling stones on police vehicles passing through a deserted road after three militants were killed in an encounter in Chattabal.

Police initially described the incident as a case of road accident apparently because it occurred on roadside where a vehicle ran over a youngster. The lie could have been paddled without fear of contradiction if there was no irrefutable evidence. Some distance away, someone captured the happening on his cellphone. The footage shows that an armoured vehicle speeds up, almost chasing Yadoo who was throwing stones on another police vehicle, takes a steep turn and knocks him down before crushing under tyres. He dies instantly.

Yadoo’s daredevilry is not justified. He had no business to throw stones on armoured vehicles to exhibit his resentment. But his crime was not too huge to cost his life. A stone cannot blast an armoured vehicle into smithereens. It never has. The uniformed man behind the wheels of this combatant vehicle did a criminal act by deliberately knocking Yadoo down. The act is unpardonable. Police have claimed the driver was detained and his vehicle seized.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti should have publicly spoken about this death and ensured the boy’s family a speedy justice like she did in the case of murder of 22-year Tamil Nadu Thiru Manisalvam who was hit with a stone at Narbal on May 8. The tourist was the victim of unidentified stone-throwers apparently seeking to enforce a shutdown in the area leading to Gulmarg. The death again brought the focus on scourge of stone-pelting that often hits unarmed targets. If the phenomenon was not there, both Yadoo and Manisalvam would have been alive. I wish like Yadoo’s death, there was footage of the stone-thrower available who turned into the Chennai man’s murderer.

These unfortunate deaths are the result of an unending chaos on the streets of Kashmir, deliberately perpetuated by the vested interests. Tweeting ‘well done boys’ after gunning down holed up rebels and shooting protesters on the sidelines of every encounter does not serve any purpose. It triggers more resentment. Neither the boy at Turkwangam (shot by army) nor the three youngsters at Khwajabagh Baramulla (shot by suspected rebels) deserved the way they were done to death. Why was the policeman walking towards mosque to offer Friday prayers shot dead in Budgam? The impoverished uncle-nephew duo of Hajin should not have met a brutal end the way they were abducted and shot dead by bloodthirsty unknowns.

Every resident of Kashmir is affected by this dance of death and destruction. It needs an immediate halt, an honourable exit that everyone cherishes. The brutal methods cannot be employed to restore peace in the streets because brutality evokes resentment and backlash. These methods have miserably failed in the past and there is no chance of their success in future as well. The resentment among the youngsters enhances after recorded incidents of subjugation make way to people’s cellphones through internet.

The methods of conflict management have been overused in Kashmir to no avail. The unionist political leadership played the vital role in this phase and lot of these leaders projected their interventions as prelude to final resolution. The situation that emerged has put them in catch 22 situation. They have lost their face. The south Kashmir region has turned into a no-go zone for them. The officers of Indian administrative and police services do not venture in these areas and mostly operate from the confines of their offices. It is reliably learnt that top police officers have re-evaluated their own security circles. There are hardly any policemen from south Kashmir who are engaged in security of top officials. These are the same men who have been issued formal advisory last year against visiting their residences. Why there is trust-deficit, is anybody’s guess.

The unending cycle of death and ever-increasing trust deficit can be addressed through a result-oriented dialogue process. The stakeholders are identified. It is high time they are approached and the process is initiated from the scratch.

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